But the project, co-directed by Dr Jenny Blain of Sheffield Hallam University and Dr Robert Wallis of Richmond University, London, admits this would undermine the very potent and almost universal need for Stonehenge to remain 'essentially preserved', shrouded in mystery, and the ancient guardian of a hidden past.
A report from their 'Sacred Sites, Contested Rights/Rites' project, comes at a time when considerable alliances have been formed at a public inquiry in Salisbury by groups fighting redevelopment plans for the Stonehenge area. These include a tunnel to take the A303 and the siting of a new visitor centre.
The project examined what have come to be known as sacred sites, and the climate of mistrust between heritage management and archaeologists on one side, and pagans and alternative interest groups on the other.
It included a detailed, systematic analysis of available published material, websites and press coverage, along with fieldwork and discussions with visitors and local people at Stonehenge and similar places.
Dr Blain said: "Stonehenge is the centre of an on-going struggle between travellers, pagans, 'Druids', members of the 'alternative' community, English Heritage, landowners and the police. The situation there spotlights differences between, on one hand, heritage concerns about preservation for future generations, and on the other, the demands of pagans and others who want open access for everyone."
Accommodations reached between the different parties at times of solstices and equinoxes remain contentious, and distrust is rife, says the report. It points out, however, that dividing lines have been dr
Contact: Becky Gammon
Economic & Social Research Council